All meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction programs incorporate breathing awareness exercises and relaxation techniques. When we are tense, angry, anxious or moody we reduce our breathing and tighten the muscles in our body and become less aware of our positive feelings and thoughts. Optimism dwindles as we tend to ponder on our problems. This actually makes the situation worse by interfering with our neurological capacity to think clearly and stay focused on our desires and goals.
Relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness improves memory, cognition and awareness. It does this in ways that suppress the neural circuits in the brain that generate anxiety, depression, and rage, all elements that clearly interfere with personal self-esteem. Indeed by meditating on an optimistic view of oneself in the world you can literally add years to your life.
Meditation is easy, even a couple of minutes of smiling, breathing deeply, or even yawning can improve your physical, emotional, and neurological health. If you meditate while you eat, you can even undermine your tendency to overeat and thus lose weight easily. You can meditate when you walk or you could stretch during lunch break, and this too can make positive and permanent changes in your brain in eight weeks or less.
Practice the following exercises for a few minutes everyday and in a few short weeks you should be able to build up to12 to 20 minutes of practice each day. Doing this will bring you many benefits; best of all you enjoy every minute of your life more fully as habitual forms of negativity and self criticism slowly fall away. Find your own rhythm and pace that create the deepest sense of relaxation for you.
There are plenty of ways to relieve stress; Exercise, a long soak in a hot bath, or even a massage. Believe it or not, something you’re doing right now, probably without even thinking about it, is a proven stress-reliever: breathing. As you may know, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been proven scientifically to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system and maybe even the expression of genes.
Basic Breathing Meditation
By focusing on your breath, you begin to train your mind to stay in the present moment, free of negative feelings and destructive thoughts.
Exercise- Sit down in a comfortable chair in a quiet place, so that nothing will disturb you for the duration of this exercise. Rest your hands on your lap, uncross your legs and put your feet flat on the floor. Now, do nothing more than pay attention to your breath, breathing slowly through your nose, and notice the cool temperature of the air; slowly exhale through your nose and notice the temperature as you breathe out. Is it warm or is it cool? Continue to breathe in and out through your nose and notice how the sensations change, breathing in…breathing out…. If a distracting thought comes in, just notice it and let it flow away. Your mind wanders, as it often will do; that’s OK…just bring your awareness to your breath, in…and out…. Now, shift your focus to your chest and feel how it rises and falls with each breath you take and slowly breathe out and see how your chest falls; practice for a few moments. Now, return to your normal breathing and listen to the sound of your breathing. Now, shift your attention to other sounds in the room. Come back to the sound of your breathing and listen for a few moments. Return your awareness to your body. Does it feel more warm or cool?
Are there different parts of your body that are more uncomfortable due to tension? If so, just take some beep breaths and yawn. Now, bring this exercise to a close. Look around the room; turn your head from one side to the other. Now, slowly rise from your chair, Take a moment to see how you feel standing up, and consciously breathe in and out. Now, start to walk slowly and see whether you can be mindful of your breathing with every step that you take.
2. Loving Kindness and Forgiveness Meditation (LKAFM)
Loving Kindness and Forgiveness Meditations (LKAFM) are some of the most powerful exercises we can do. I can’t stress enough the neurological necessity of generating self-love. Sit quietly in a comfortable place while doing the following exercise.
- Send love to yourself by repeating this affirmation:
May I be happy…may I be well…may I be filled with kindness and peace.
- Send love to a person you really like. Visualize him/her while repeating:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Send love to a distant family member. Say it at least twice to yourself until your feelings change:
May I be happy…may I be well…may I be filled with kindness and peace.
Then, say it to them:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Now, expand your circle. Send it to your college friend, the mailman, anyone else:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Extend your feelings to a person that you find difficult to get along with. Visualize that person. If you feel resistance, don’t fight it; acknowledge it and come back to loving yourself:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Send a loving thought to those who deeply hurt you in the past. Feel that hurt in your body memory.
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Take a deep breath and yawn and repeat affirmation.
- Extend your love, kindness and forgiveness to all.
- Hold the vision in your mind for all different people in the world, all cultures, all colors, religions:
May you all be happy, may you all be well, may you all be filled with kindness and peace.
3. Compassionate Communication Meditation
Mindfulness in Dialogue- If you speak 25% slower than you normally do, comprehension increases in the listener’s brain and your body automatically relaxes; defensive communication falls away, greater empathy and intimacy increases an average of 10%. But talking slowly and mindfully is so unfamiliar. Talk so slowly that you leave a few seconds of silence between each and every word. Try this exercise with some friends—20 seconds per sentence. After a while, you feel increased intimacy emerging, one that allows you to resolve difficult issues without making either person upset. With practice, you begin to speak more slowly and mindfully and more compassionately with others. You see they will respond with more love and care towards you.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Some people have a very difficult time using their mind to relax their body. Recommended is the heavy artillery of relaxation technique. It is particularly effective with a variety of psychological and physiological disorders. All you do is tighten and relax each group of muscles in your body followed by a few deep breaths and a couple of yawns. Comfort is what really matters.
- Take a deep breath and hold as long as you can, longer…then breathe out as much air as possible. Repeat. Now, take another deep breath and tighten your jaw and face muscles; hold it…and let it go as you breath. Once again, yawn and relax.
- Pull your shoulder up to your head and tighten all your muscles in your neck. Slowly roll your head from side to side. Now, yawn and relax.
- Tighten your arms and hands/fist. Shake them out gently. Now, take a few moments to sense the relaxation that spreads in your upper body and face.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold to the count of 10.
- Tighten your buttocks.
- Tighten upper legs and thighs.
- Scrunch up your feet and toes. Shake out your feet and all tension left in your muscles. Take deep breaths and yawn.
- Take another deep breath and tighten your whole body. Release and yawn.
5. Ocean Wave Meditation
Mindfully watching your thoughts and feelings is one of the hardest meditations to master. Just visualizing a beautiful place will relax your mind/body. Pay attention to any thought or feeling, and place it on an ocean wave. Watch that wave as it goes back to the ocean. Take a deep breath and return to awareness of your body in your mind. The mind has a way of generating endless thoughts. Put all your thoughts on the waves and watch them going away. Yawn, breathe deeply and come back to that momentary quiet and peacefulness place until the next thought or feeling intervenes.
6. Yawning Meditation
Yawns … What are they good for? It turns out that they are good for YOU.
It turns out, that despite the unexplained stigma in our society implying that it is rude to yawn, there are many benefits, to not only yawning when the body requires it but also inducing a string of ten yawns in a period of about two minutes.
While most are familiar with yawning when they are sleepy and associate themselves with being tired, research shows that we also yawn when exposed to light. This suggests that it is part of the process of waking up.
Beyond assisting one to relax, yawning quickly brings one into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. They rid the brain of sleepiness, thus helping you to stay focused on important concepts and ideas. They regulate consciousness and our sense of self, and help us become more introspective and self-aware through forcing oxygen into our brain.
Scientifically speaking, yawns activate the precuneus, which in turn regulates the temperature and metabolism of your brain. Neuroscientists believe that yawning probably evolved as a way to cool down the overly active mammalian brain, especially in the areas of the frontal lobe. So, if you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, it is essential that you yawn, as researchers suspect that yawning may be the brain’s attempt to eliminate symptoms by readjusting neural functioning.
Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production in your hypothalamus and hippocampus, areas essential for memory recall, voluntary control, and temperature regulation. These neurotransmitters regulate pleasure, sensuality, and relationship bonding between individuals. So if you want to enhance your intimacy and stay together, then yawn together. Other neurochemicals and molecules involved with yawning include acetylcholine, nitric oxide, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, ACTH, MSH, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides. In fact, it is hard to find any other activity that positively influences so many functions of the brain.
The advice is simple. Yawn as many times a day as possible: when you wake up, when you’re confronting a difficult problem at work, when you prepare to go to sleep, and whenever you feel anger, anxiety, or stress. Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn while you meditate or pray because it will intensify your spiritual experience.
7. Walking Meditation
Walking Meditation is an easy and enjoyable way to develop mindfulness. Walk in slow motion to notice your feelings, sensations and thoughts. Take a single step; feel free to adopt this exercise in any way. The goal is to bring yourself into the present moment, being aware of your body and your surroundings as you enjoy a contemplative walk.
Exercise- Begin by simply standing on one foot and noticing your weight on the foot. Now slowly and gently shift your weight back and forth between each foot. Take your time, noticing how different parts of your body feel. Notice how different sensations change in your leg and in your back. Now, in slow motion, lift your right heel two inches off the floor and slowly put your heel back down to the floor. Do this three times, noticing different sensations in different parts of your foot.
Now change to the other foot and lift your left heel in the same way as above. Notice how different it feels from the other side. Now, lift one heel and put it down and then lift the other heel; keep doing it, noticing how it affects your balance. You can do it very slowly or at your natural speed. Slowly lift your entire left foot off the ground one inch and put it down. Now do the same with the other foot. Continue to alternate for a few minutes to see how it affects the feeling in your body as if you were standing and stepping in slow motion. As you do this exercise, you become more and more aware of unconscious processes we all use to keep ourselves in balance.
Now begin to take slow steps forward, as slowly as possible without losing your balance. Become aware of every aspect of every step you take and continue this for the next few moments. As you are walking slowly, pay attention to your breathing, stopping and breathin in, stopping and breathing out…in…out….step-step…in…out. Now, continue to walk slowly and notice all the different sounds around you.
A few minutes of walking meditation each day by maintaining awareness of your step and the rhythm of your breathing, will help to deepen your awareness about your body and environment. Smile and enjoy walking without purpose or thoughts, noticing the beauty surrounding you inside and outside. Each time you practice walking meditation, try to do something different. Apply slow activity, like opening a door or washing your hair or eating in slow motion.
What could be simpler or more radical than coming back to the present moment through breathing? Breathing is the foundation of meditation. Consider starting a meditation practice to give inner peace a chance. You know you could use a little calm, but your mind goes all over the place; you cannot stop your thoughts; it’s hard. How will you ever be able to quiet that constant inner monologue?
Meditation is so beneficial, that it is worth the effort. Meditation improves heart function and immune response. It lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It reduces pain, increases longevity and, finally, it rewires your brain.
Then why doesn’t everyone do it? The most obvious reason is that this simple act defies the rules of our society. We believe in rushing and achieving. Meditation asks us to draw our attention inward and stay seated when a million impulses call us back to the fray. Practice is often uncomfortable. The longer you sit, the deeper you go into the dark cave of your mind, where ancient memories, guilt, fears, and losses can spring out at you. You were hoping to find peace and here is your own custom-made uproar and your back is killing you! It is just one boring breath after another and you are jumping out of your skin. If you find breathing boring, consider your next breath as your last one. Would you find it boring?
Once you understand it, meditation gets easier. Mindful meditation (Buddha) is about paying attention each moment to your senses, emotions, and thoughts, without resistance or judgment. Meditation is training in how to get to the Now, right Now, where you are OK. The more fully you inhabit Now, the more OK you become. Now is your home base; it’s the best spa and the best medicine.
With meditation you are dismantling two of the oldest reflexes in the world. Meditation offers infinite opportunities to open our grip and let go. We see that we don’t lose anything by letting go. Peace is the greatest happiness! Isn’t that what everyone wants? Within our minds, lies an extraordinary potential for inner peace and happiness. Through simple practice of breathing, we can learn to access this potential.
The Breath is a continual invitation to be here now…and now…and now. Your mind will continue to create thoughts; that is what minds do. The idea is not to refuse the thoughts or judge yourself. Visualize “You” as the vast blue sky and thoughts, emotions and sensations as passing clouds. Clouds don’t stain the sky. No matter how permanent they (thoughts) look, they are going to move on. When there is judgment and criticism, let them go–just more clouds–and return to the breath. You are not trying to empty your mind. You are noticing what is going on. Meditation gives you a seat in the theater of awareness. Drama is anger; instead of getting angry with yourself for being angry, be curious. The anger is giving you information to sink your attention into your body. What are the sensations that you recognize as anger? Where are they? The mind cannot focus on two things at once. (You cannot love and hate in the same moment.) Dropping the story cuts the fuel line to the emotion. The feelings fade away and calm returns.
Meditation is training your mind in how to get to the now and here, where you are yourself and can be calm and quiet.
Breathing is the foundation of meditation. Your mind will continue to create thoughts; that is what minds do. Meditation is not about trying to empty your mind; you are noticing what is going on in your mind. Meditation gives you a seat in the theater of awareness. Meditation is about training your mind to remove negative thoughts about yourself and others and help to bring your body to natural balance. Meditation improves heart function and immune response, lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Meditation relaxes, rejuvenates and, finally, rewires your brain. Then why doesn’t everyone do it? The most obvious reason is that the simple act defies the rules of our mainstream society. We believe in rushing and achieving. Meditation asks us to draw our attention inward and stay seated when a million impulses call us back to the fray and the dark cave of our mind where ancient memories, guilt, fears and losses can spring out at us.
1. Mindfulness-based Relaxation – Deep belly breathing relaxes and relieves tension and anxiety due to its physiological effect on the autonomic nervous system. A simple deep belly breathing exercise is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve sends a signal to your brain’s emotional center (hypothalamus) to turn up your parasympathetic vagal tone and turn down your sympathetic overdrive response. Take seven deep belly breaths, with your exhale two times longer than your inhale. Finish with seven laughs and proceed to mindfulness meditation.
5 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation
- Sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. Keep your back straight and let your shoulders drop. Take a deep breath and close your eyes if you wish.
- Observe your breath. Don’t change your breathing, but focus on the sensation of air moving through your nostrils.
- As thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge those thoughts and then return to focusing on your breathing each time.
- Don’t judge yourself or try to ignore distractions. Your job is simply to notice that your mind has wandered and to bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Start by doing this 10 minutes a day for a week. The more you meditate regularly, the easier it will be to keep your attention where you want it.
2. Laughter Meditation – Laughter is the most powerful, simple and safe tool to bring you to the present time and inspire you to see the brighter sides of any situation. Laughter connects you with your true nature and your higher SELF. Laughter allows you to step back from stress and re-adjust your attitude.
3. Yawning Meditation – Assists one to relax, yawns quickly brings one into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. They rid the brain of sleepiness and helps you to stay focus on important concepts and ideals. Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production. Acetylcholine, nitric oxide, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, ACTH, MSH, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides. In fact, it is hard to find any other activity that positively influences so many functions of the brain.
4. Forgiveness Meditation – Bring into your heart the image of someone for whom you feel much resentment. Take a moment to feel that person right there in the center of your chest and forgive that person. Repeat for others until you feel calm.
5. Loving Kindness Meditation – Is one of most powerful exercise you can do to generate SELF-love. Send love to yourself by repeating this affirmation: May I be happy… may I be well…may I be filled with kindness and peace.
6. Compassionate Communication Meditation – Mindfulness in Dialogue. If you speak 25% slower than you normally do, comprehension increases in the listener’s brain and your body automatically relaxes; defensive communication falls away, greater empathy and intimacy increases an average of 10%.
7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Some people have a very difficult time using their mind to relax their body. This meditation is particularly effective with a variety of psychological and physiological disorders. All you do is tighten and relax each group of muscles in your body followed by a few deep breaths and a couple of yawns.
I want to share the priceless secrets about how to master a long and healthy life. Once you understand the lifesaving implications of the amazing discoveries of telomeres/telomerase, you will appreciate how they are used to slow aging and prevent lifestyle diseases. The Radiance Program in Longevity will show you how to live a longer and more vital life by protecting your telomeres.
Telomeres keep your chromosomes intact. As cells divide and replicate, telomeres eventually shorten; when they become too short, cells die. You can slow telomere shortening and rejuvenate your cells by making relatively simple health and lifestyle changes (diet, supplements, stress-neutralization and exercise). Telomeres determine the lifespan of the cell. Telomeres play a central role in timing and controlling the aging process. We can use telomeres to reverse aging. If we reset telomere lengths in cells, we can reverse aging in those cells.
Today, we can measure the age of cells by the length of the telomeres. A human embryo has 15,000 base pairs of the DNA sequence TTAGGG in its telomeres. The newborn has 10,000 base pairs in each telomere sequence—5,000 base pairs of telomeres lost. In a sense, we start to die the minute we are born.
Telomere length is telling us something more than chronological age. There is a link between longevity and the presence of longer telomeres. Shorter telomeres don’t correlate only with age; they also correlate with the stage of one’s health. All studies correlate telomere length to disease and to death.
Telomere shortening has been implicated in almost all aspects of normal aging. High levels of stress hormones, inflammation, insulin, blood sugar and habits and conditions such as smoking, fatty diets, obesity (belly bulge) and sedentary living are all linked to shorter telomeres and lower telomerase levels.
The following are lifestyle changes to increase telomerase:
- Serenity will open receptor sites.
- To neutralize stress, elicit relaxation response.
- Eating to safeguard your telomeres.
- Telomere-friendly foods.
- Fitness plan that combines High-Intensity Interval Walking exercise (HIIW), endurance and resistance training.
Top 20 Telomere-Friendly Foods
- Sweet Potatoes
- Olive Oil
- Wild Salmon
- Green Tea
- Sea Vegetables
DNA in chromosomes must remain intact; otherwise, genetic defects and cancer can occur. The primary function of the telomeres, which consist of 15,000 repeats (in embryo cells) of the DNA sequence TTAGGG, appear to be to protect the functional DNA. By dividing, you lose only some of the telomere’s DNA. With every replication of our DNA, part of the telomere sequence is chopped off. This is how Nature protects the DNA in a chromosome.
Telomerase: The Immortality Enzyme
It is now possible for you to extend your life expectancy beyond 120 while leading an active, robust, independent lifestyle, maintaining the strength and vitality you had when you were much younger. Following a nutritional plan will reduce oxidative stress and the resulting inflammation that is known to speed up telomere shortening. Plus, the effects of pollution, radiation and toxins in the environment, combined with the stress of sleep deprivation or everyday irritation do not stop just because you are on the latest macrobiotic diet. The telomere gene also exists in all our other cells. The crucial difference is that normal cells don’t suppress the telomerase because the gene is repressed in them.
The key to immortality is turning the telomerase gene from off to on. Telomerizing your cells is an immortality program. You will have the possibility of living forever young so that your body doesn’t wear our or become disease-ridden. If you can keep your telomeres long enough, and even grow them longer, you will never have to face the deterioration and getting old; instead, you’ll remain forever young. Would you take the time to understand telomere biology and adopt the strategies for slowing down or even reversing telomere shortening?
Wellness is a contemporary worldwide trend, penetrating the collective cultural psyche, the media and our institutions.
Everywhere you look you see wellness centers springing up in hospitals, clinics and fitness centers; medical spas and wellness spas are on the rise; and mind-body-spirit wellbeing
is omnipresent in magazines. It is universally accepted that there is an increasingly
urgent need for us to take a greater level of responsibility for our wellness if we are ever to get healthcare costs under control.
Wellness extends beyond health–although good health results from wellness–to encompass a process of integration characterized by awareness, education and practicing a wellness lifestyle. Wellness is a lifelong process of moving toward improving your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental health and wellbeing. The word wellness carries good energy: feeling good, looking good, vitality. Wellness lifestyle offers a bridge to cross over into new territory to explore possibilities for the state of being well.
There is a desire among people worldwide to be educated and guided to take charge of their wellness, or at least to improve the quality of their life experience. Improving the quality of life is sought for many reasons: to feel good and have increased vitality; to be healthier and to eliminate pain; to be more spiritual–the search for higher connection, meaning and purpose; and for relaxation and overall wellness. People are also intimidated by the words health and risk factor. Health is, at its core, a scary topic: health insurance, disease, pain, suffering, the hospital, maybe even death. Prevention is associated with hard work and perhaps it’s even boring and no fun to talk about or do it. However, the word wellness carries good energy: looking good, feeling good, vitality, vigor, youthfulness, and the spa.
Culture of Medicine
The 19th and early 20th centuries were a hot-bed for natural therapies and a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Colleges of naturopathy, homeopathy, and chiropractic flourished. Sanitariums, such as the one at Battle Creek, Michigan founded by the natural health pioneer John Harvey Kellogg, helped people to regain or maintain good health through diet, exercise and other lifestyle measures.
Healthcare in America took a radical turn around 1910, however, when the Flexner Report determined that German allopathic medicine was superior to naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbalism. “Out” was the whole person, systems-based approach of natural medicine; “In” was the symptom-based, drug-based approach. Most important was the economic consideration, the ability to patent chemically based drugs and mass produce them at huge profits. With our dependence on the quick-fix, magic bullet approach, the importance of lifestyle in maintaining good health continued to erode.
For the last one hundred years in America, we have been engaged in a medical culture war between two seemingly opposing forces. The first is the “Culture of Illness,” represented by the modern medical-pharmaceutical-research complex, which is focused on disease management largely through synthetic, patentable drugs. The second, the “Culture of Wellness,” which focuses on the whole person, this includes lifestyle, self-responsibility, teaching and motivating people to create higher levels of vitality, health and well-being. Wellness is committed to teach people to be well rather than to consider people as patients who have an illness to be treated.
Since 1970, we find ourselves coming full circle. Wellness is a contemporary trend, penetrating the collective cultural psyche, the mainstream media along with our medical and educational institutions. Everywhere you look you see wellness centers rapidly springing up in hospitals, clinics and fitness centers. We see that medical spas and wellness spas are on the rise, wellness coaching is a hot new field and the mind body spirit connection of well-being-ness is omnipresent in women’s magazines. The necessity for wellness is acknowledged worldwide, there is an increasingly urgent need for us to take a greater level of responsibility for our wellness if we are ever to get health care costs under control and to have a lasting impact on our planetary consciousness. When people embrace wellness into their lifestyle, they will experience more joy and peacefulness in their life.
Vitality Is the Currency for Wellness
Vitality is not just a state of mind; it’s a physical condition and energetic component necessary for health and well-being. Each of our cells contains hundreds of mitochondria, tiny “power plants” that combine the oxygen we breathe with the food we eat and then burn the combination to create energy. How energetic we feel largely depends on how well our power plants are functioning. To function optimally, your mitochondria need quality fuel, food and oxygen: a wholesome varied diet, restorative sleep (deep relaxation) and plenty of oxygen (exercise). You also need channels to take fuel into the internal environment of your cells. Fortunately, you are a tubular creature. All of your tubes (vasculatures, digestive and breathing tracts) have internal linings, called endothelium and mucosa, and smooth muscle fibers in the wall. Smooth muscle fibers in the walls of tubes and inner lining are under the control of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. A balance in the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches is the foundation for radiant wellness. To prevent disease, you first need to start balancing the autonomic nervous system, addressing proper nutrition, appropriate exercise, developing a calm mind and finding a meaning and purpose for life.
Autonomic Nervous System To promote health and wellbeing—and prevent inflammation–it helps to understand how your neurovascular system functions. Basically, your autonomic nervous system controls the muscle fibers in your tubes with two sets of nerve-fiber cables. Picture these nerve-fiber cables as blue and red in color. Imagine the blue cable as the brake and the red cable as the accelerator of an automobile. The foundation of your health is in the balance between the blue and red nerve-fiber cables, just as it is with the proper application of the accelerator and the brake as you drive your car.
Disease develops when there’s an imbalance between your accelerator and your brake. Health and wellbeing results when you maintain a balance between the two branches of your autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. You take charge of your health and wellbeing by practicing serenity to bring about a balance in your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The Importance of the Endothelium in Health and Well-Being The endothelium, or inner lining, of our vasculatures is a very active and important component for our health and wellbeing. Dysfunction of the endothelium is the major cause of blockage of arteries that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Healthy endothelium maintains uninterrupted circulation by allowing blood to flow smoothly to every part of the body and by participating in blood pressure control. One of the most important functions of healthy endothelium is the release of nitric oxide, which then signals the surrounding smooth muscles of the arteries to relax and dilate, increasing healthy blood flow. Endothelial dysfunction takes place through inactivation of nitric oxide by harmful oxidative stress, which occurs in stressful situations, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and smoking.
Stress damages the endothelium’s structural integrity, compromising the interior wall of the arteries, until it is no longer able to protect the arterial walls against the infiltration of cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. Thus, endothelial dysfunction is one of the first steps in the creation of atherosclerosis–the build up of arterial plaques that elevates the risk for heart attack and stroke. With increasing age, your body loses continually optimal endothelial function. Endothelial dysfunction is the beginning of inflammation.
De-Stressing for Wellness
Stress is a physiological (fight or flight) and psychological (tension, not at ease, anxiety) reaction to an event that arouses us. Stress is not something that happens to us; it is how we react to what happens. When we can’t avoid stressful situations and/or don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to deal with stress, our natural response is fight or flight. Fight or flight is the body’s primitive and automatic response–fueled by adrenaline and cortisol–to either fight or run to survive a perceived threat. Adrenaline works in the short term, causing increased blood pressure, rapid breathing and diversion of blood flow to the limbs. Cortisol production follows, working to raise glucose (sugar) levels in the blood for extra energy. Other hormones work to shut down any functions that are not immediately necessary for survival such as growth, reproduction, digestion and blood flow to the skin.
Stress disrupts life and emotions show up in the form of tension, fatigue, low energy, poor sleep, unease – you lack inner serenity. When stress is triggered intensively or for too long a time, it can result in inflammation and chronic lifestyle diseases (heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity). Inflammation partly is regulated by the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is overused, tissue sensitivity to this hormone is reduced; it no longer regulates inflammation, which allows inflammation to get out of control. This, in large part, is how stress predisposes you to getting sick in the first place. If you feel stress is affecting your health, then it’s time to take stress relief very seriously.
Many people have been habitually tense for most of their lives. They are unaware of it and carry tension with them day and night. A tense state is all they know—they have nothing to compare it with. They refuse to try relaxation techniques, saying they have no time. Most stress is self-manufactured based on how you react to stressors. “It is estimated that only 5% of our worries have a realistic basis and the remaining 95% are unfounded fears.”
To calm down and relax deeply, you need to understand how your brain functions. The brain is the substantive part of human thought, experience and emotions. The mind is generally considered to be the thoughts and feelings themselves. The mind is the product of the functioning of the brain. All that you are is the result of what you have thought.
Our magnificent brain has evolved to teach us how to survive, how to relate, how to dream and how to find success and happiness in our life. To survive in the early period of human existence, we evolved the old brain of fight or flight; to experience feelings and family connections, we evolved the emotional and mammalian (limbic) part of the brain; to create and imagine a new world, we evolved the new brain; and, finally, we evolved the prefrontal lobes, which integrate these functions and offer the possibility of compassion, success and creation of a positive future for ourselves. Breathing and other serenity practices elevate us from the level of the old survival brain of fight or flight to the thriving level of prefrontal cortex where you create compassion and happiness.
Creating wellness by calming your mind
Being aware of your reactions to stressful situations and learning techniques to neutralize them is an ongoing commitment, the same as preparing healthy meals and exercising. Unfortunately, many fall into a trap where their strategies for dealing with stress center on unhealthy activities such as watching TV, drinking alcohol or eating junk food, which undermines their wellness. Whichever relaxation technique you practice, it must have meaning for you. Having a daily ritual helps you to decompress and stay grounded.
How to ritualize your de-stressing techniques Decide that you want to calm your mind and make de-stressing a priority for your wellness and you are halfway to your goal. Take time to listen to your breathing and gradually learn to regulate it, which will calm your mind chatter. It’s like giving your brain a daily vacation from thinking. Do whatever it takes to establish a routine: sit in a certain position and find a private spot in your home to practice your ritual.
What is it that all individuals desire? A calm mind, balance and tranquility; we call it serenity. Serenity is the opposite of stress. If we don’t experience serenity in some form, we will experience disease at some level. In a serene state, our minds are alert, yet calm and peaceful. Our body produces nitric oxide to neutralize the negative effects of excessive cortisol, the stress hormone. Learning and practicing serenity is the most important step toward neutralizing stress response. Serenity practices provide many wellness benefits: feeling good, having vitality, relaxation, staying well and preventing lifestyle diseases. First, we must have serenity as the antidote to stress. When our mind is calm and clear and we feel good, our attitude is more open and we are inspired to consider lifestyle modification to create wellness–eating mindfully, exercising and finding meaning and purpose in what we are doing. Serenity is not a luxury; it is essential to the wellness of our body, mind, and soul. People use a number of techniques to de-stress for staying well. One of these is an ancient technique called laughter therapy. It has been proven by researchers all over the world that laughter is a simpler, easier and more enjoyable form of deep relaxation and wellness promotion than any of the more sophisticated and expensive methods.
Serenity Practices: Learning and practicing serenity exercises to activate relaxation response and achieve tranquility is the most important step toward de-stressing for wellness. You can learn to activate the relaxation response in many ways:
1. Breathing: Your breath is your first line of defense in stress neutralization and can create almost instant calm and relaxation. Any moment you attempt to clear and calm the mind, you create the intention of healing. The very best way to clear and calm the mind is to put your attention on your breath.
2. Laughter: In laughter, we are lifted above our feelings of fear, discouragement and despair. When you are engaged in a good hearty laugh, the energy system in your body gets a workout (inner jogging). Hearty laughter stimulates practically all the large organs, boosts immunity, increases vitality, makes you stress-hardy and increases your resiliency against lifestyle diseases. Laugh to feel good now naturally, and stay well forever.
3. Yawning is an overlooked and powerful wellness tool. It is believed that yawning probably evolved as a way to cool down the overly active brain, especially in the area of the frontal lobes. So, if you want to maintain your radiant wellness, it’s essential that you yawn and reap the following seven benefits: lowers stress response, relaxes every part of your body, stimulates alertness and concentration, increases memory recall, enhances pleasure and sensuality, fine-tunes your sense of time, increases empathy and social awareness.
4. Meditation: Meditation is training your mind in how to get to the now right now where you are OK. Being in the moment is home base. Your mind will continue to create thoughts; that is what minds do. Meditation is not about trying to empty your mind; instead you are noticing what is going on in your mind. Meditation gives you a seat in the theater of awareness. Meditation is about training your mind to remove negative thoughts about yourself and to help bring your body into natural balance. Think of meditation as an everyday task, like brushing your teeth. It is all about habituation—getting used to the practice. Meditating for 3 minutes 5 times a day is as beneficial as doing it in a single 20-minute practice.
5. Gratitude is accepting what you have. Grateful individuals have more energy, less physical complaints and higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm and optimism. Keeping a gratitude journal is useful to achieve a more balanced perspective.
6 Scientific Reasons You’d Actually Live Happier and Longer If You Just Laughed More!
Laughing offers a multitude of health and wellness benefits. It improves your mood, relieves stress, breaks the tension, loosens things up and supports your heart.
Here are six reasons why we all need to laugh more:
1. Relieves stress. By stimulating oxygen to your organs and enhancing muscle relaxation, laughter has a very welcoming way of relieving everyday stressors. A booming laugh aids in your circulation and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which, in turn, helps you to loosen up and shake it out. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
2. Prevents heart disease. It’s important that you can laugh at yourself. Having a sense humor and learning to laugh more may help guard against potential heart attacks, according to a 2009 study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. All those quotes about not taking life too seriously because you’re not coming out of it alive actually have some science behind them. http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-release /2009/laughter-is-the-best-medicine-for-your-heart
3. Strengthens memory recall. Researchers at California’s Loma Linda University found that older adults performed significantly better on short-term memory tests after watching funny videos. Humor delivers more than just comic relief; it also greatly improves recall abilities by stimulating more gamma brain waves. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.html
4. Relieves pain. This is no joke; laughter can ease pain by encouraging the body to produce natural endogenous painkillers. Laughing also breaks pain-spasm cycles common to muscle disorders. Whether you’re in physical or mental pain, laughing helps you to cope. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-,amagement/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
5. Releases endorphins. The physical act of laughing triggers an increase in endorphins. Muscle movements involved in producing the familiar “ha, ha, ha” cause your brain to release these feel-good chemicals, which is why we enjoy laughing until it hurts. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/science/14laughter.html?_r=0_
6. Burns calories. Good news if you don’t want to go to the gym today and instead sit on your couch viewing Amy Schumer reruns: Big-belly laughing for just 15 minutes per day burns anywhere from 10-40 calories. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, laughing makes the heart beat faster, work the muscles and expends 10 to 20 percent more energy than at rest. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6274119.stm
Laughter is an overlooked tool that allows us to step back from the stress and readjust our attitude.
Laughter allows us to dismiss many things that are usually self-created threats and fears generated by our own minds and beliefs. Engaging in regular laughter and actively assuming a positive attitude not only relaxes us, but also promotes health and wellness.
Laughter bypasses your ego and connects directly with the real self, without the worries that accompany concerns of the past and future that can dominate one’s awareness. It acts as a powerful ally in defeating the negative impact of stress, allowing us a fresh and positive perspective to engage successfully with the world at large.
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally; it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up; over the long haul, it may:
Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can impact your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.Relieves anxiety. Around 1 in every 8 Americans suffers from some form of anxiety-related disorder, which equates to almost 20 million Americans.
Stress has also been linked to digestive problems, allergies, skin rashes, and can even interfere with the body’s immune system, causing a host of other illnesses and conditions, including headaches, back pain, jaw pain, heartburn, acid reflux disease, asthma, hardening of the arteries and blood sugar disorder.
go ahead and giggle…
Pain is afraid of laughter.
Sorrow is scared of laughter.
Depression’s most notorious enemy is laughter.
“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” ~ Mark Twain
“…If I did not laugh I should die…” ~ Abraham Lincoln
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin
YAWN AND THE WORLD YAWNS WITH YOU
Yawning is one of the best-kept secrets in neuroscience. Neuroscientists have overlooked this powerful neural-enhancing tool. However, yawning has been used for many decades in voice therapy as an effective means for reducing tension in the throat. Several recent brain-scan studies have shown that yawning evokes a unique neural activity in the areas of the brain that are directly involved in generating social awareness and creating feelings of empathy. One of those areas is the precuneus, a tiny structure hidden within the folds of the parietal lobe. According to researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London, the precuneus appears to play a central role in consciousness, self-reflection, and memory retrieval. The precuneus is also stimulated by yogic breathing, which helps explain why different forms of meditation contribute to an increased sense of self-awareness. It is also one of the areas hardest hit by age-related diseases and attention deficit problems, so it’s possible that deliberate yawning may actually strengthen this important part of the brain.
Yawning should be integrated into exercise and stress reduction programs, cognitive and memory enhancement training, psychotherapy, and contemplative spiritual practice. And, because the precuneus has recently been associated with the mirror-neuron system in the brain (which allows us to resonate to the feelings of others) yawning may even help us to enhance social awareness, compassion, and effective communication with others.
There seems to be an unexplained stigma in our society implying that it’s rude to yawn, and most of us were taught this when we were young. Furthermore there is some confusion about what causes yawns. They do increase when you’re tired, and it may be the brain’s way of gently telling you that a little rejuvenating sleep is needed. On the other hand, exposure to light will also make you yawn, suggesting that it is part of the process of waking up. Yawning doesn’t just relax you—it quickly brings you into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. It rides the brain of sleepiness, thus helping you stay focused on important concepts and ideas. It regulates consciousness and our sense of self, and helps us become more introspective and self-aware.
Yawning will relax you and bring you into a state of alertness faster than any other meditation technique, and because it is neurologically contagious, it’s particularly easy to teach in a group setting.
Yawning, as a mechanism for alertness, begins within the first twenty weeks after conception. It helps regulate the circadian rhythms of newborns, and this adds to the evidence that yawning is involved in the regulation of wakefulness and sleep. Since circadian rhythms become asynchronous when a person’s normal sleep cycle is disturbed, yawning should help the late-night party-goer reset the brain’s internal clock. Yawning may also ward off the effects of jet lag and ease the discomfort caused by high altitudes.
Yawning, in addition to activating the precuneus, regulates the temperature and metabolism of your brain. It takes a lot of neural energy to stay consciously alert and as you work your way up the evolutionary ladder, brains become less energy efficient. Yawning probably evolved as a way to cool down the overly-active mammalian brain, especially in the areas of the frontal lobe. Some have even argued that it is a primitive form of empathy. Most vertebrates yawn, but it is only contagious among humans, great apes, macaque monkeys, and chimpanzees. In fact, it’s so contagious for humans that even reading about it will cause a person the yawn.
Indeed, yawning may be one of the most important mechanisms for regulating the survival-related behaviors in mammals. So if you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, it is essential that you yawn. It may also be the brain’s attempt to eliminate symptoms by readjusting neural functioning.
Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production in your hypothalamus and hippocampus, areas essential for memory recall, voluntary control, and temperature regulation. These neurotransmitters regulate pleasure, sensuality, and relationship bonding between individuals, so if you want to enhance you intimacy and stay together, then yawn together. Other neurochemicals and molecules involved with yawning include acetylcholine, nitric oxide, serotonin, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides.
Yawn as many times a day as possible: when you wake up, when you’re confronting a difficult problem at work, when you prepare to go to sleep, and whenever you feel anger, anxiety, or stress. Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn while you meditate or pray because it will intensify your spiritual experience. You will feel utterly present, incredibly relaxed and highly alert.
7 Essential Reasons to Yawn
- Lowers stress response
- Relaxes every part of your body
- stimulates alertness and concentration
- Increases memory recall
- enhances pleasure and sensuality
- Fine-tunes your sense of time
- Increases empathy and social awareness